Dec 23

Story Idea: What About Those Who Don’t Celebrate Christmas

I remember a colleague who is Jewish said that his family tradition on Christmas was to go to a movie.   My new friend whose heritage is Indian said she volunteered to work on December 24 and 25, so those celebrating Christmas could be with their families.  We are an increasingly diverse society and many people do not follow Christmas traditions or celebrations.

But by the Monday of Christmas week, most news outlets have done a lot of stories on caroling and concerts, needy families and special present drives. What about finding a good human interest story this week about how people who are not Christian deal with all the commercialism and tradition at this time of year. How hard is it for children and families to not be a part of something that seems ingrained in society, if not as a religious celebration, then as a cultural tradition?

This map, from the Association of Statisticians of American  Religious Bodies shows the predominant non-Christian faith traditions:


(c) 2010 Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies

Some leads on where to find people in your area who may have interesting stories about not observing Christmas:

  • refugee resettlement office
  • local synagogue, mosque/masjid, Buddhist Center, Hindu mandir or other religious organizations
  • a religious school
  • an interfaith organization
  • the religion department at a nearby university
  • an international center
  • an Indian dance school or a martial arts center
  • a local hospital with a child psychologist on staff


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Dec 18

25th Anniversary of Lockerbie Disaster

Twenty-five years this Saturday.  December 21, 1988. A bomb blew up Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.

You might be doing a short story about the anniversary, especially if any of those killed had ties to your area.

We, at Syracuse University,  are profoundly aware of the impact of the Pan Am 103 bombing over Lockerbie.  Thirty-six of our brightest and best — returning from a semester abroad — were on the plane.  And having personally visited Lockerbie and stood before the memorial with the 270 names etched in stone — it’s an important date for me to remember.  We have several events through the year to remind us of this law and the impact of terrorism on our world.

Here are some resources for coverage:





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Nov 25

Beef Up Your Storytelling with a Statistic Here or There

I’m always encouraging reporters to find a new nugget of news, or a statistic or some context for their story to add value. So here’s a way to find some statistics if you’re reporting on a particular industry.

Thanks to my colleague Johanna Keller, I’ve just discovered all the business stats about hundreds of industires through  IBIS Industry Reports . You can search by industry or by classification code,  if you happen to know the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS).


From IBIS Industry Reports

For example:

And don’t just look at the summary first page or you’ll miss all the goodies. See these tabs along the top for the best info:



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Nov 13

Dig Up Info on Your Local Non-profits

I just penned my annual email to the Syracuse University comptroller’s office asking for a copy of the lastest IRS 990 form. All non-profits have to complete these.irs_logo

Since the university operates on a fiscal year of July 1 to June 30, the IRS requires the form on the fifth month after the fiscal year ends, which is November 15. Often the university files an extension, which is allowed by law, and it will be next year.

For organizations who use a calendar year, it’s May 15.

If you’ve not looked at a 990, it gives a lot of basic financial information, the organization’s mission, and — perhaps most interestingly — the salaries of the top five highest paid employees.  Here at Syracuse University the coaches often outstrip the chancellor.

So you might want to think about whichcharities  in your area might be filing this week. It could be a treasure-trove of information.

And it’s not just charities but also the famous Section 527 political committees have to file them, as well.

For more information on 990s check out this April, 2012 post.


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Nov 04

Great Aid for Tracking Newsmakers

newsle_logoMy colleague, Jon Glass, sent me a note last week that one of our alums had just gotten a big new job.  I congratulated the alum, via email, and he emailed back that  we were among the first to know.  In fact,  we knew before some of his colleagues.

That’s because Jon has been using a web alert program called newsle that sends you an email whenever one of your contacts is in the news. It’s now my new favorite app for keeping up with people I know.

But what a great opportunity for journalists.  Here’s another way to find stories and keep up with what newsmakers are doing.

You allow newle to see your contacts in your email and/or facebook and/or LinkedIn. It scans those names regularly and when it finds a news article about one of them, it sends you an email.

The first time you run it newsle screens back several months. So it sent me an interesting interview with a Zimbabwe journalist who won a free speech award here a few years back.  I was delighted just to know he is safe and still working. Here is what newsle forwarded me:Newsle_samplenoticeYou can go to to read what it pulls up and it will email you whenever it finds a news story with one of your contacts.

I’m interested in how journalists have been using it, so leave me a note below if you’ve found it helpful.

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Oct 10

5 Helps For Covering the Nobel Peace Prize

nobel-peace-prizeCovering the Nobel Peace Prize Friday? It will be announced at 5 a.m. EST. Many are hoping for Malala Yousafzai, but many other deserving people have been nominated from across the world.

To help you prepare, here are 5 helpful resources:

The Nobel Prize also has a channel on YouTube and Google+, or check its facebook page.  On twitter, follow @nobelprize_org



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Oct 10

Get Stats On Google Databoard or Create Infographics

google-logoIf you are looking for some research about mobile and media, check out Google’s new databoard. It currently offers research on how consumers:

  • search with a mobile device
  • navigate multiple screens
  • shop in stores with a smartphone, and
  • use online video.

You get summary info in well-designed graphics but can click in and get more of the data and the report.

But the best feature is you can combine the stats and graphics together into a customized infographic such as this:



These infographics are automatically designed in blocks and you can easily put them together with a few clicks. Then you just click the “publish” button and post on . Google+, twitter or facebook. Or email it to yourself or someone. Or you can get a custom URL.

To learn more, view this video that explains how it works.

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Oct 02

TwXplorer Offers More Ways to Search Twitter

I tweeted out the link to TwXplorer a few days ago but just had a chance to try it myself. It’s a new Knight Foundation lab search tool for twitter. It offers you the last 500 tweets on a keyword, plus it gives you

  • graph showing the most common other words that appear
  • list of the most common links appearing in those tweets, and
  • most popular hashtags associated with you keyword.

Here’s a search I did for the term fiscal:ss_twXplorer

Note that you see tweets in the left column, in the middle column you get terms used in those tweets and and a list of links that frequently appearl.

In the far right column you get the common hashtags people are using with that keyword. This is the most valuable to me, as many times I can’t figure out what hashtag people are using when I am tracking a topic. If you click on one of the hashtags, you can delve deeper. This is what I got when I clicked on (or filtered) for #news:



And for our international friends, you can search in 12 languages.

Here’s a more fun search, for all you Pirates fans rejoicing today:

ss_twXplorer_pittsburghInteresting that I found the keyword Pittsburgh  was better than Pirates.

Try it out and tell me what you like.


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Sep 17

HistoryPin Offers Historical Photos and Information

Here’s a quirky website that I just came across.  It might be an interesting place for new reporters to go to learn a bit about history in their new area. Or by looking at the photos there,  a daily reporter might find a story with a historical bent or an anniversary story. And any of you who are history buffs, or have them in your audience, this is for you!

HistoryPin is a volunteer-driven site in which people post historical photos and “pin” them to a location.

For example, I put in my hometown of Oak Harbor, Ohio, and came up with old photos from the national rifle matches which have been held near there there for years. The photos include a copyright notice and the original source – – in that case,  the Connecticut State Library. Here’s the map with thumbnail photos which you can click on for detailed information.


You can search by topic, by location. You can search in a particular year.   You can compare to today and Google’s StreetView.  For more tips on that and ways to use HistoryPin, check out this page.  Here’s a video overview of the project.

Try it out!  It’s fun. Historypin has been developed in partnership with Google by a non-profit,  We Are What We Do. 

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Sep 09

Search Twitter With Topsy

I’ve written before  that Twitter’s own  search only lasts a few days so it’s difficult to find tweets more than a week old. So I’ve recommended you try Topsy  for searches.

Now great news. Topsy, as of last week, has indexed the whole twittersphere. It claims  that it can tell you the very first tweet back in 2006! And everything since.  What a great research tool for journalists.

And if you want to have some fun, you can find your first tweet. Or anyone’s first tweet. Here’s mine from 08/11/08:first_tweet_fm_TopsyHere’s how to do it:

  • Go to
  • In the search box put from:yourusername. For example, I put from:bcfought
  • When you get the next screen of tweets, select “All Time” from the time range options on the left
  • Look at the top for a pull-down box and  sort the results by oldest

Here’s what mine looked like, note the circled items:


Of course you can look for others’ first tweets as well. And Topsy has already pulled them for Justin Bieber and the first tweet to mention  Barack Obama.

Post a comment below if you have other great search tips.



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